(Originally written July 9, 2008)
What makes this film worth watching is not its value in terms of filmmaking and skill but rather the individual stories of the eight children who have their sights set on the Howard Scripps National Spelling Bee. The stories of the children and their families are moving, showing how the spelling bee brings together children from different backgrounds and parts of the country and gives them an opportunity to shine. Although the film does a good job of gathering a variety of voices including the parents and past winners of the spelling bee, it is frustrating is that we spend so little time with each of the kids, and I felt like this movie should have taken its time telling these stories. The movie introduces eight different competitors in the spelling bee and their background stories, and the jumping around sometimes makes it difficult to actually connect. The problematic goal of the film and uninspired look of the film are in part remedied by a quality editing job, most apparent in the transitions between the different stories and the condensed footage from the actual competition. In spite of the film’s flaws, Spellbound is highly enjoyable and helps to humanize a competition that could otherwise come across as simply just a bunch of letters.